What Formats Can You Apply on USB Drives on Mac Devices?
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What Formats Can You Apply on USB Drives on Mac Devices?

Most flash drives come with an NTFS or a FAT32 format. Among these two formats, FAT32 is compatible with Mac systems. As you might know, the NTFS formatting option is not available on Mac computers.

So, your Mac cannot read drives that have this format. Various other USB drive formats are incompatible with macOS as well. But, you can make your Mac read those drives’ contents by reformatting them.

Formatting a drive on your Mac is quite simple as we shall see. Before that, you must know what format choices are available on Macs. We must also look at each format’s benefits and drawbacks. So, read to know these details before formatting a USB drive on your Mac.

MacOS Drive Formatting Options and their Pros and Cons

Like all operating systems, macOS features multiple format options as well. And, some of them are compatible only with Mac devices. So, you must carefully consider which format would be best for you.

Your MacBook might fail to read a compatible flash drive due to various reasons, and that might indicate an issue with your Mac. You must consider approaching a professional MacBook repair in Chennai in such situations.

You should consider the pros and cons of a format before choosing one. Here are all the format choices you get on macOS for your USB flash drive:


When you open the format choices on your Mac, MS-DOS is one of the options you see. This format is the same as FAT32, but it has a different name on Mac devices. And, it has pretty much universal compatibility as you might know.

In other words, it is compatible with a wide range of devices, that includes PCs and even gaming consoles, including Wii, Xbox360 and PS3. MS-DOS is the best option to provide maximum interoperability for your USB flash drive.


The biggest advantage of the MS-DOS format is its compatibility. And, that is the only significant reason for you to choose this format.


Do you want to store files larger than 4GB on your drive? MS-DOS is not a good option for you. And, the same applies in case you want to create a startup drive for your Mac.

MacOs Extended (Journaled)

This format is the default one for your Mac device’s drives, and it is incompatible with any device that is not running macOS. So, you must choose it only when you want to use your USB flash drive exclusively with Mac devices. Being the default Mac drive format, MacOs Extended is the recommended format choice for Macs.


MacOS provides your drive with interoperability among all Mac devices. So, you can read your flash drive’s content with any Mac device after choosing this format. Moreover, you can set drives with this format as the startup drive.


Your PC can actually read the contents of a MacOS Extended drive. But, it cannot write on drives with this format. Do you want to transfer files from PC to Mac? The MacOS Extended format would be a bad option.


The Extensible File Allocation Table (exFAT) file system was introduced quite a long time back. And, it is compatible with all the recent macOS versions. Apart from that, it is also compatible with Windows systems. You would find it suitable for transferring and storing large files.


ExFAT can be a great alternative to the FAT32 format. And, that is mainly because it can store files larger than 4GB, which the latter one cannot. The fact that ExFAT is compatible with Macs and PCs also contributes greatly to that. This format can offer a significant amount of interoperability to your USB flash drive.


Even though exFAT is quite an old format, it is comparably new, which makes it incompatible with earlier versions of Mac and Windows systems. Moreover, it is also incompatible with gaming consoles and cameras. So, it is a good option only if you do not need to use the drive with these devices.

How do You Format a USB Flash Drive on Your Mac?

You must first determine which one of the aforementioned formats you want on your drive. Once you have done that, you can proceed to format the drive as per your preference. Also, back up the important files on the flash drive if it has any.

Back-Up Your USB Drive

Formatting your drive will delete all the files from it. And, you cannot always easily recover those files once you have lost them. So, you need to back up the drive first before formatting it. There are several backup options you have in this case.

Back-Up to Your Mac’s Drive

Does your Mac have enough space to store your USB drive’s files? If yes, then you must simply transfer the files from the external drive to the internal one. And, that way you can recover them in a few easy steps.

Back Up to Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a great option for storing your important files. It never faced damage and can add an additional layer of protection to your files. Further, you can upload a large number of files to it within a fairly short time.

Back Up to Another External Drive

If the aforementioned options are unavailable, you can also use another external drive. This is a viable alternative to back up your important files. So, you might want to give it a try in this case. Simply transfer the files from the USB storage to another connected external drive.

Format the USB Drive Using the Disk Utility

You must use the Disk Utility app on your Mac to format your USB flash drive. And, you can accomplish this task in a few simple steps. Open the Finder section to navigate to the Disk Utility on your device.

Open the Disk Utility

Find and open the Finder section on your desktop. Go to the Applications tab where you will find all apps arranged in alphabetical order. So, you should find the Utilities section towards the bottom of the list. Open it and click on Disk Utility to proceed with formatting the flash drive.

Find and Select the USB Storage

The internal and external drives are on the left side of the Disk utility page. And, you should find the USB flash drive connected to your Mac among them. The disk management options are located at the right side of the window. So, select your flash drive to erase and format it.

Erase and Format the Flash Drive

The Erase option is right under the ‘Disk Utility’ given at the top of the window. Click on it and enter the new name you want for your flash drive. Then, you must select a suitable format for it. This is a crucial step as the drive’s format can make a lot of difference. So, choose a format wisely, and then proceed with erasing the drive. Click on Done after the formatting is over.

What to Do When You Lose Data During Drive Formatting?

Did you lose important files from the flash drive while formatting it? You must make no delay in finding a solution. You must install reliable data recovery software if you do not have one already. Then, you should use it to recover all your lost flash drive data. Apart from that, you must also consider reaching out to a professional data recovery service immediately.

What Formats Can You Apply on USB Drives on Mac Devices?

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